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Use data to measure your local car economy

By Flickr user Brian Teutsch

Automakers will release domestic motor vehicle sales figures for August on Sept. 1, and a year after “Cash for Clunkers” it’s worth taking a look at how car retailers and related businesses are faring in your market.

Edmunds.com has released a detailed forecast and predictably, without the big tax breaks, this August’s sales are suffering by comparison with last year’s.  Still, the annualized sales rate for 2010 (meaning the number of cars that will be sold by Dec. 31 if the pace of sales stays on track with year-to-date figures) is showing a bit of an uptick over last year.

Use the breakout figures by manufacturer in Edmunds’ report to quiz your local dealerships about whether they are plus or minus the annual average, and what they figure is behind any deviation.

This WSJ data package will give you a plethora of ideas for localizing; it shows what’s moving by brand, by type of vehicle, etc. (you can get the raw numbers yourself from the automakers’ releases)  – and notes one influential factor in auto sales: Gas prices, which are hovering around an eight-month low.

TrueCar.com also is offering an August forecast, down to brand level, and also delves into vehicle pricing.   It may be worth a call to see if they can provide spending data for specific states or metropolitan market if you’re focusing on a consumer-spending angle. Be sure to ask local banks, credit unions and finance companies about trends in loan terms, too – are car buyers, like home borrowers, opting for shorter loans these days or stretching payments out to make them easier on the pocketbook in the short term?

Another source of local data is insurers, especially independent agents, who may be willing to summarize trends in insurance policies that reflect your local economy.  Higher deductibles?  Skimpier coverage?  More older cars being limped along another year?

For another local economic indicator, talk with dealers and related businesses about business purchases of new and used vehicles.  One of my tradesmen just purchased a smaller – but new – pickup truck for his business.  He was flush with cash to spend on the new truck but shopped around for the best fuel mileage – and interesting glimpse into the priorities of the small business person.

And recently, in researching an article about commercial graphics on light trucks and other vehicles, I was told by several design firms that they’re seeing a bit of an upswing in the number of new vehicles being brought in for custom signs, even full-body decal wraps, as companies bite the bullet and replace aging work trucks.  Check with white-collar firms that provide fleets for the use of employees, as well as service and blue-collar companies that operate vans and larger trucks, about their purchasing plans for the balance of 2010.

In Beats, Economy, Featured, Manufacturing | Large companies, Story ideas, Transportation | Airlines | Travel.

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